Friday, March 1, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#491)

  • President Biden pays particular attention to - and has consulted with - former Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass.
  • How Jake Sullivan launched "Bidenism" at Brookings. 
  • Climate scientist Michael Mann wins million-dollar verdict against right-wing bloggers connected to CEI.
  • Republican lawmakers are requesting the DOJ to open an investigation into the International Crisis Group to determine if it acted as an unregistered agent for the government of Iran.
  • Japan's endeavors to connect to Donald Trump have included outreach by Japanese diplomats with think tanks.
  • What the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies' wargame revealed about a key USAF concept.
  • Williams Institute: "A UCLA Law think tank focused on sexual orientation and gender identity law and public policy."
  • Last month, former CFR head Richard Haass approached top Biden Administration officials with an "audacious" plan for changing politics around the Israel-Hamas war: Distance Biden from Netanyahu by making his case directly to the Israeli people.
  • The Carter Center has registered to lobby.
  • Narrative Strategies says it's the "only think-and-do tank currently postured to deliver both operationalized narrative services and training at the most elite level."

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Atlantic Council Axes Major Donor

Here is more from Politico:

The Atlantic Council terminated its relationship with a major donor, Gaurav Srivastava, after the think tank couldn’t confirm important details of his background in its donor vetting process, Daniel reports. Srivastava and his wife Sharon donated at least $1 million to the think tank for its Global Food Security Forum in Bali in November 2022.

— Srivastava last October was the subject of an unflattering profile by the news outlet Project Brazen that suggested misconduct on his part; a lawyer for Srivastava, who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record, told PI that the allegations in the article were “categorically false.” Bradley Hope, a co-author of the story and a former Wall Street Journal reporter, told PI in an email that “we stand by our story.” The termination of the relationship with the Atlantic Council has not been previously reported.

— “All funds received by the Atlantic Council from Mr. Srivastava for the Global Food Security Forum were dedicated to and used for the event,” a spokesperson for the Atlantic Council told PI. “We did, however, return funding received from Mr. Srivastava in 2023 for future collaboration.”

— “We made the decision to terminate our relationship with Mr. Srivastava in May 2023 upon learning new information because of our donor review process. For example, we learned that The Gaurav & Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation was not an established 501C3 in April of 2023, despite Mr. Srivastava’s representation to the Council that this was a registered foundation,” the spokesperson continued.

 

Here is a link to the Gaurav & Sharon Srivastava Family Foundation, which says it was founded in 2015.

The above-mentioned Project Brazen news outlet says that Gaurav Srivastava is an "alleged serial con man who pretended to be part of a little-known CIA program to swindle an oil trader."

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Think Tank Used to Defeat Trump in 2020 is Relaunched

Here is more from Axios: 

Veterans of the Obama administration are re-launching an advocacy group, National Security Action, to make the case for President Biden's re-election based on his foreign policy, according to a memo obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: National Security Action was originally co-founded in 2018 by Jake Sullivan — now Biden's national security adviser — and Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security adviser for Barack Obama.

Zoom out: The group's leaders didn't expect to get involved in campaigns after Biden beat Trump in 2020, but the former president's resurgence led them to try to get involved in the 2024 election.

 

Here is the website for National Security Action.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Leaked Files From China Show Think Tanks as Targets of Hacking Campaign

Here is more from the Washington Post:

A trove of leaked documents from a Chinese state-linked hacking group shows that Beijing’s intelligence and military groups are attempting large-scale, systematic cyber intrusions against foreign governments, companies and infrastructure — with hackers of one company claiming to be able to target users of Microsoft, Apple and Google.

The cache — containing more than 570 files, images and chat logs — offers an unprecedented look inside the operations of one of the firms that Chinese government agencies hire for on-demand, mass data-collecting operations.

Most of the targets were in Asia, though iSoon received requests for hacks further afield. Chat logs included in the leak describe selling unspecified data related to NATO in 2022. It’s not clear whether the data was collected from publicly available sources or extracted in a hack.

Another file shows employees discussing a list of targets in Britain, including its Home and Foreign offices as well as its Treasury. Also on the list were British think tanks Chatham House and the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

 

Entities linked to Chinese state hacking groups have targeted NGOs and think tanks across Asia, Europe, Central America, and the US.

Monday, February 19, 2024

Head of Washington Policy Center Resigns Amid Turmoil

Here is more from the Seattle Times:

The head of the Washington Policy Center, a prominent conservative think tank, has resigned in a move he said was voluntary but which followed complaints by some staff of a toxic workplace and poor financial stewardship.

Michael Gallagher, the president and CEO of the Seattle-based nonprofit since March 2022, announced his departure in a news release and statement this week.

Over the past year, Gallagher had been the subject of some staff complaints alleging verbal abuse and questioning his work ethic and expenses, according to internal documents obtained by The Seattle Times.

Gallagher's annual compensation was $374,000 is 2022.

The article notes that WPC is an affiliate of the State Policy Network, a 50-state association of like-minded free-market groups.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Arson Suspected at Offices of Conservative Think Tanks in MN

Here is more from CCX Media:

A fire ripped through a Golden Valley office complex early Sunday morning, damaging the offices of several conservative organizations.

The building is located south of Interstate 394 and east of Highway 169. Tenants in the building believe their offices were targeted.

“I think there’s some disruption and some uneasiness about somebody who would want to do this to our building,” said Bill Walsh, director of marketing and communications for the Center of the American Experiment, a conservative think tank.

Walsh says his office, along with two other conservative organizations — TakeCharge Minnesota on the first floor, and the Upper Midwest Law Center on the third floor — all sustained damage in a fire that occurred around 2 a.m. on Jan. 28.

 

The conservative groups are calling the fire an act of "political terrorism."

Thursday, February 1, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#490)

  • Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts says he sees the think tank's role as "institutionalizing Trumpism."   [WaPo's Josh Rogin calls the interview "disgraceful."]
  • Hansjorg Wyss, the Swiss billionaire cast by US conservatives as the "New Soros," is a member of the board of the Center for American Progress (CAP).
  • "That may be the real lesson at Davos: Everyone is winging it, experts and schlubs alike, muddling through with at best fragmentary understandings of a fast-moving world and its inscrutable future," notes Politico's John Harris in a piece entitled "Why the Davos Smart Set Sounds Dumb."
  • A think tank run by former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is leading a $1 billion effort to spur US hydrogen production.
  • Chaguan (Economist) attended the Stockholm China Forum, a private gathering in Singapore of American, Chinese and European officials and scholars convened by the German Marshall Fund and Sweden's foreign ministry. 
  • Jens Stoltenberg speaks at Heritage Foundation - "the latest pilgrimage by a global ally to appeal to increasingly isolationist conservatives."
  • PIIE scholar Chad Bown becomes chief economist at the US State Department.
  • Meet the think tank behind the agribusiness' legislative wins in Brazil. 
  • President of the Center for China and Globalization, Henry Huiyao Wang, has a new book on think tanks.
  • Nippon Steel sent delegation to Washington to talk with think tank analysts about CFIUS review related to its acquisition of US Steel.
  • Companies are re-thinking the in-house think tank.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Two Think Tanks Targeted by Pro-Israel Group for Improper PPP Loan

Here is more from Politico:

The Middle East Institute plans to settle a lawsuit alleging the think tank obtained a pandemic relief loan under the Paycheck Protection Program for which it was not actually eligible, according to court filings unsealed last week (h/t our Kyle Cheney). The Zionist Advocacy Center, a litigious pro-Israel advocacy group run by attorney David Abrams, brought a qui tam, or whistleblower, complaint in December 2021 under the False Claims Act to challenge a $359,000 PPP loan MEI received earlier that year.

MEI isn’t the only firm facing consequences for PPP’s political prohibition. In December, PR firm MikeWorldWide, run by Democratic fundraiser Michael Kempner agreed to pay back $2.3 million in PPP loans that it was ineligible for due to being a registered foreign agent. The Institute for Policy Studies reached a deal in June to pay more than $500,000 to settle a lawsuit that was also brought by TZAC alleging fraudulent receipt of a PPP loan.

The Institute for Policy Studies has long been critical of Israel, while MEI has received funding in recent years from the governments of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Libya, according to disclosures — all of whom, with the exception of the UAE and Bahrain, still have no diplomatic relations with Israel.

 

The Zionist Advocacy Center (TZAC) has historically challenged the tax exempt status or federal funding to nonprofits and other organizations that have done charitable work with Palestinians, notes Politico.

Friday, January 19, 2024

Think Tank Run by Former Obama Official to Lead $1 Billion Hydrogen Effort

Here is more from Politico:

The Department of Energy announced a consortium Wednesday to set up a hydrogen purchase program as the U.S. increasingly looks to the fuel to slash greenhouse gas emissions economy-wide.

DOE says the program authorized by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law is meant to spur production at seven proposed U.S. hydrogen hubs announced in October.

EFI Foundation, a think tank run by former Obama administration DOE Secretary Ernie Moniz, is leading the effort alongside market intelligence firm S&P Global, financial exchange operator Intercontinental Exchange, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Energy Initiative and law firm Dentons.

 

EFI Foundation build on the work of Energy Futures Initiative (EFI), established in 2017 by former US Energy Secretary Ernie Moniz.

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Top Indian Think Tank Banned from Receiving Foreign Donations

Here is more from AFP:

A leading Indian think tank confirmed Wednesday it had been banned from taking foreign funding, the latest organisation among foreign charities, rights watchdogs and others similarly targeted after criticising the government.

The Centre for Policy Research (CPR) is one of the country's most highly regarded public policy forums.

Its staffers are prominent talking heads and columnists who have been rare dissenting voices in the media on sensitive political issues, including national security policy and governance in the restive territory of Kashmir.

The home ministry had already provisionally suspended the CPR's licence to receive foreign donations after raids in 2022 by the tax department, severely curtailing its operations.

 

AFP notes that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the US State Department were among CPR's prominent foreign donors.

Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Think Tank Quickies (#489)

  • Ukraine's Zelensky makes appeal to US think tanks.
  • Tony Blair think tank revenue hit $140 million.
  • Politico: "There was a secretive meeting at the Heritage Foundation that reportedly included allies of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban."
  • Myron Ebell, a leading climate change denier for 2+ decades, is set to retire from think tank CEI.
  • Eric Schmidt's think tank, Special Competitive Studies Project (SCSP), urges moonshot chase to keep US ahead.
  • Heritage Foundation using questionnaire to test the ideology of potential recruits for the next Republican presidential administration.
  • OpenAI's Sam Altman confronted board member Helen Toner, a director of CSET, for co-writing a paper that seemingly criticized OpenAI for "stoking the flames of AI hype."
  • House Republican Conference invited Capitol Hill staffers to a briefing with the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI).
  • Thomas Spoehr, previously director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, is now a senior adviser at CSIS.
  • "The list of former high CIA officers now affiliated to GU/CSIS is indeed impressive."  [GU referring to Georgetown University.]

Monday, January 15, 2024

Billionaire Bill Ackman Starting New Think Tank to Probe Higher Ed

Here is more from Bloomberg:

Bill Ackman slammed the performance of Harvard University’s endowment and said he’s forming a think tank to continue his scrutiny of US education in a wide-ranging interview Friday on CNBC.

To continue his scrutiny of antisemitism and diversity, equity and inclusion policies on US campuses, Ackman plans to form a team that will go “after these issues in a very aggressive way,” he said.

With his new think tank, Ackman is poised to deploy familiar tactics on unfamiliar targets. At Pershing Square Capital Management, he used a scorched-earth approach to activist investing that resulted in both big wins and shattering losses.

“It’s going to be a think-and-do tank,” he said. “We’re going to study these issues and come up with solutions to problems, and we’re going to implement them.”

Ackman has a personal net worth of $2.5 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. 

 

No word yet on the name of the new think tank, but Ackman has said that he plans to rent additional space for the new entity and hire a CEO and board of directors.

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Think Tanks Need Deeper Bench of China Experts, Says New Report

The national security think tank MITRE Corp. warns in a new report that more China experts are needed at think tanks.  Here is more from the Washington Times:

Intelligence agencies should also do more to track Chinese global influence campaigns, the report said.

The spy agencies also lack the expertise and language capabilities needed for improved targeting of intelligence efforts against China, MITRE analysts said. The lack of personnel with deep expertise on China is faced by both analysts and clandestine operators.

Currently, education and think tank programs devoted to China are expanding in the United States but the report said it will take time to build a deep bench of China experts.

 

MITRE Corp. was founded in Massachusetts in 1958 as a military think tank spun off from the MIT Lincoln Laboratory.  It has been described as a "government-linked Skunk Works."

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

VCs Working With Think Tanks to Help Fund Defense-Tech Companies

Here is more from Eric Lipton of the New York Times:

More than a dozen [venture capitalists], assisted by think tanks and other nonprofits that get funding from venture capital groups, have been pushing Congress and the Defense Department to accelerate spending with defense-tech companies, or to make policy changes that make it easier for them to get Pentagon money.

Many of the venture capitalists keep ties to Washington.  [Mark] Esper is co-chairman of a commission set up by the Atlantic Council that is studying ways to accelerate the Pentagon’s embrace of new technology. The Atlantic Council staff set up a series of 70 briefings for Pentagon and congressional officials to promote their ideas.

The staff director of the report, Stephen Rodriguez, is an executive at a defense venture capital firm. He also serves as an adviser to Applied Intuition, a software startup and military contractor that helped fund and promote the report. Funding for the Atlantic Council report also came from several other venture-backed defense startups and Mr. Philippone’s Snowpoint Ventures.

 

Relatedly, it has become quite common for consulting firms, public relations (PR) firms, and lobbying shops to use think tanks to promote reports that benefit their clients.

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

New 2024 Trend: Think Tank Tasting Menus?

Here is more from Axios:

A pioneering "nonprofit fine dining restaurant" M. Frances is opening near Union Market this spring from The LEE Initiative.

Why it matters: Think tanks and tasting menus rarely coexist — the founders are touting the restaurant as "the first of its kind in America" — and the place has lofty goals to create solutions for the many issues independent restaurants face.

Catch up fast: Kentucky-based celebrity chef Edward Lee (who's also behind D.C.'s Succotash) and industry veteran Lindsey Ofcacek co-founded The LEE [Let's Empower Employment] Initiative in 2017 with the goal of creating programs to make the hospitality industry more diverse, equitable, sustainable, and compassionate.

Zoom in: LEE's mentorship program for women in food and spirits — which includes six months of training and funded externships — inspired the idea for M. Frances.

How it works: The intimate restaurant and cocktail bar aims to recruit top chefs — locally and nationally — to run a yearlong residency program for up-and-coming talents. The collective will create local, seasonal tasting menus throughout the year.

  • Price is TBD, but Ofcacek says, "We're tapping out at $175. We want to be fine dining, not super luxury."

Zoom out: M. Frances is designed to be a live experiment and think tank. The nonprofit is teaming up with schools and big-name sponsors like Chase Sapphire and OpenTable to test best business and employment practices, from fair wage modeling to environmental sustainability.

 

While this will not be a traditional think tank, Think Tank Watch would rather visit this than most of the 400+ "think tanks" currently in Washington, DC.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

RAND Corp. Received Millions From Facebook Co-Founder to Influence AI Policy

Here is more from Politico:

The RAND Corporation — a prominent international think tank that has recently been tied to  a growing influence network backed by tech billionaires — played a key role in drafting President Joe Biden’s new executive order on artificial intelligence, according to an AI researcher with knowledge of the order’s drafting and a recording of an internal RAND meeting obtained by POLITICO.

The provisions advanced by RAND in the October executive order included a sweeping set of reporting requirements placed on the most powerful AI systems, ostensibly designed to lessen the technology’s catastrophic risks. Those requirements hew closely to the policy priorities pursued by Open Philanthropy, a group that pumped over $15 million into RAND this year.

Financed by billionaire Facebook co-founder and Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, Open Philanthropy is a major funder of causes associated with “effective altruism” — an ideology, made famous by disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried, that emphasizes a data-driven approach to philanthropy.

At RAND, both CEO Jason Matheny and senior information scientist Jeff Alstott are well-known effective altruists, and both men have Biden administration ties: They worked together at both the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the National Security Council before joining RAND last year.

RAND spokesperson Jeffrey Hiday confirmed that RAND personnel, including Alstott, were involved in drafting the reporting requirements and other parts of the AI executive order.

 

The article notes that RAND employees having started to raise concerns about the think tank's new association with effective altruism.

Monday, December 11, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#488)

  • Heritage Foundation paid Ginni Thomas more than $936,000 between 2001 and 2007 (tax filings before 2001 are not available).  Clarence Thomas reported her employment at Heritage in 2011, after left-leaning activists raised questions. 
  • Mexico only has one think tank focused on foreign policy.
  • Conservative Partnership Institute: "The MAGA movement's nerve center."
  • The National Interest: Why is the Heritage Foundation embracing Viktor Orban?
  • Vice President Kamala Harris addressed the CAP IDEAS Conference/20th anniversary celebration at the LINE Hotel.
  • Heritage Foundation reversed its opposition to an Article V convention to endorse Mark Meckler and Convention of States Action (COSA) two days after Mike Johnson became House speaker.
  • "A longtime staple of the liberal Center for American Progress, [Ruy] Teixeira, 71, left last year to take a perch at the American Enterprise Institute, the bastion of pro-market conservatism.  It's an odd place for someone with a social-democratic take on the economy - but a move he said he made because he couldn't stand the cultural climate of liberal think tanks."
  • Heritage is running an ad blasting Senate Republicans for criticizing Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) holds on Pentagon nominations.
  • Think tankers arming themselves amid spike in DC violence.
  • Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies: "An independent, non-profit futures think tank founded in 1969."

Friday, December 8, 2023

Trump-Backed Think Tank Raising Huge Sums Before 2024 Election

Trump-aligned think tanks are raising huge sums of money, including massive amounts from anonymous donors.  Here is more from CNN:

A nonprofit that employs numerous Trump administration officials and is laying the groundwork for the former president’s potential second term raised more than $23 million last year – nearly a third of which came from a single anonymous donor, previously unreported tax documents show.

The documents show that America First Policy Institute – a think tank that’s been described as a “White House-in-waiting” and has released a spate of conservative policy proposals – burned through most of the funds it raised, spending $22 million over the course of the year. That included the rental of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort for a fundraising gala that featured a keynote speech by Trump himself.

But AFPI’s windfall has also sparked tensions with Trump’s team, with some advisors concerned the group has been taking in donations that would be better routed to the former president’s campaign or affiliated political action committees, a source familiar with the internal conversations told CNN.

AFPI’s board of directors includes several wealthy GOP donors such as Texas energy magnates Tim Dunn and Cody Campbell, Florida philanthropist Trish Duggan, and Goya Foods CEO Bob Unanue, as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. A new addition to the board in 2022 was Mark Pentecost, a Florida entrepreneur who runs a skincare and nutrition company but does not have as significant a history of political donations. 

The group doesn’t publicly disclose any of its donors. But additional tax documents reviewed by CNN reveal that it received some donations from foundations connected to wealthy businessmen or their estates, including the Jackson Howard Foundation, which gave about $304,000, the Leandro P Rizzuto Foundation, which gave $260,000, the Dunn Foundation, which gave $250,000, and the Herche Family Foundation, which gave $200,000. 

 

The story quotes an AFPI spokesperson as saying that the think tank has received donations from 44,000 donors since its inception in 2021.  The article also notes that AFPI employed 81 people and had 50 volunteers in 2022.

CEO Brooke Rollins made $550,000 in total compensation last year.

Thursday, December 7, 2023

Russia Blacklists US Think Tank RAND Corp.

Here is more from The Moscow Times:

Russia’s Justice Ministry has added the U.S. global policy think tank RAND Corporation to its list of “undesirable” organizations, banning its activities and putting staff at risk of jail in Russia.

RAND’s designation, dated Dec. 6 on the ministry website, is not accompanied by a statement explaining Moscow’s decision to blacklist the research and development nonprofit.

The California-based RAND Corporation has published extensive research into Russia’s military since Russian troops invaded Ukraine in early 2022.

Organizations labeled “undesirable” must cease all operations inside Russia, and it is illegal for individuals and media outlets in Russia to republish or share their content.

The “undesirable” designation also places the organizations' staff and members at risk of jail time.

Russia introduced its “undesirable” list in 2015 to crack down on foreign NGOs and ban Russians from working with or donating to them.

 

As Think Tank Watch has reported, A number of other Western think tanks have been blacklisted by Russia in recent years.

Monday, December 4, 2023

CFR Member Charged With Spying for Cuba

Here is more from Reuters:

The United States on Monday charged a former ambassador to Bolivia with spying for Cuba for over 40 years, in what the Justice Department described as one of the highest-reaching and longest-lasting infiltrations of the U.S. government by a foreign agent.

Victor Manuel Rocha, who served as U.S. ambassador to Bolivia from 2000 to 2002, was charged with committing multiple federal crimes including acting as an illegal foreign agent and using a fraudulently obtained passport, the Justice Department said in a statement.

 

Rocha was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Monday, November 13, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#487)

  • Heritage Foundation is an ally of new House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), according to Punchbowl News.
  • RAND Corp. among those that uncovered covert campaign by China to use AI to spread lies about Maui wildfires.
  • The McCain Institute organized a delegation visit to Ukraine to meet with senior officials, including the prime minister.  Evenlyn Farkas, the think tank's executive director, led the group, which including members from the Ukraine Business Alliance, including Palantir Technologies, Microsoft, Skydio, and Fortem Technologies.
  • Harry Kazianis has rejoined the Center for National Interest as a senior director of national security affairs and will serve as executive director of its publication, The National Interest.  He was previously a political consultant and senior director of Korean Studies at CSIS.
  • Former undersecretary of defense for policy, Colin Kahl, has joined Brookings as a scholar in residence.
  • Arms control expert Jon Wolfsthal has joined the Federation of American Scientists as director of global risk.
  • Derek Mitchell, the former US ambassador to Myanmar, is rejoining CSIS as a non-resident senior adviser.
  • David Miliband and Yalda Hakim have joined CNAS's board of advisers.
  • Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Aspen Institute announce Bloomberg CityLab 2023 in Washington, DC.
  • How did free-market think tanks take over Westminster?

Thursday, November 9, 2023

New Think Tank Dedicated to Serbia-US Ties

Here is more from Politico:

Vuk Velevit has started the Pupin Initiative, a think tank dedicated to bolstering ties between Serbia and the US.  He most recently was an international strategy fellow at Schmidt Futures and previously worked in startups as well as consulting on security issues in the Western Balkans.

 

Here is a link to the think tank's website, which indicates it has offices in both Serbia and Washington, DC.  The think tank says it sustains its operations through a "tiered membership structure."

Here are pictures from its October 2023 launch in Belgrade, which was attended by more than 200 people.

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

AEI Expands DC Presence

In a rare move these days, a think tank is expanding its physical presence in Washington, DC.  Here is more from Washington Business Journal:

The American Enterprise Institute, a D.C.-based foreign policy and defense think tank, is taking the rare step, for these days at least, of expanding its local offices.

The AEI, headquartered at 1789 Massachusetts Ave., NW, has inked a 22,581-square-foot lease at 11 Dupont Circle NW, according to real estate services firm Newmark.

11 Dupont Circle, spanning 153,228 square feet, was recently renovated inside and out, with a new tenant lounge, fitness center, conference center and bike storage room, newly activated courtyard and mechanical, electrical and plumbing upgrades.

 

The two buildings are just one block away from each other.  Here is a look at what the updated 11 Dupont Circle looks like.

AEI bought the 1789 Massachusetts Ave. property in 2013 for $36.5 million, and moved in around three years later following more than $80 million in renovations.

It is unclear if AEI's famous cookies will be available at the new location.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Goldman Sachs Launches New Think Tank-Like Entity

Here is more from FT:

Goldman Sachs is setting up an institute to analyse geopolitics and technology, the latest firm to bet on demand from companies for advice on how to navigate a disorderly world.

The Goldman Sachs Global Institute, announced on Thursday, will initially be focused on geopolitical tensions and disruption from the rise of artificial intelligence.

It will be led by Goldman partners George Lee and Jared Cohen. The two men also co-lead the investment bank’s Office of Applied Innovation, which was established last year to spot commercial opportunities related to shifts in technology and the geopolitical landscape.

Lazard last year launched a unit of advisers to counsel companies on geopolitical risks. The McKinsey Global Institute, an offshoot of the management consulting firm McKinsey, and similar corporate research and analysis units have been around for decades. The Goldman Sachs Global Institute is a successor to the bank’s Global Markets Institute, which was formed in 2004 to focus on the relationship between capital markets and public policy. 

 

Here is a link to the Goldman Sachs Global Institute.  Here is more about the Global Markets Institute (GMI).

Friday, November 3, 2023

Booz Allen Backs Government Client With New CSIS Report

Here is a summary from Politico:

Despite decades of efforts to bolster its cyber defenses, the U.S. government is vulnerable to crippling attacks that could disrupt essential services and undermine national security no matter how much money you throw at it, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The 97-page report was six months in the making — compiled by a task force of former senior government officials, cyber experts and private sector executives. It finds that while the U.S. has made progress in securing its networks, it’s still not enough to keep up with the evolving threat landscape. Here’s what stands out to us from the analysis.

 

The full report, which provides specific recommendations for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), can be found here.  CSIS notes that the report was funded by Gray Space Strategies, a strategic advisory firm based in Washington, DC.  The firm has noted that Booz Allen Hamilton was also behind the report.  In return, Booz Allen Hamilton is promoting it as strictly a CSIS report.

Booz Allen Hamilton has received millions of dollars from CISA.  

In a July 2023 CSIS press release announcing the launch of a "CSIS Task Force on CISA's Evolving .gov Mission" along with the goal of releasing the report in Oct. 2023, there is no mention of Booz Allen, but Gray Space Strategies' CEO is quoted as saying it would be an "independent study."

Gray Space Strategies has funded other things at CSIS, including a Sept. 2023 event on user cyber games to understand emerging threats.

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Canadian Think Tank MLI Opening Up Shop in DC

Here is more from a press release:

Canada and the United States are quietly diverging on many important geopolitical issues. Yet any reasoned survey of the two neighbors’ interests would quickly conclude that Washington and Ottawa should be closely aligned on matters including national security, the future of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, opposition to authoritarian regimes, the Arctic, energy, critical minerals, and more. To put the US-Canada relationship back on sound footing, the nations should start by telling each other the truth and seeing the relationship as it really is.

The Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI), Canada’s leading think tank, is launching a new project in Washington to take on this truth-telling task. This project—the Center for North American Prosperity and Security (CNAPS, pronounced “synapse”)—will go beyond clich├ęs to drive an honest dialogue on the issues that matter most for the security and prosperity of citizens on both sides of the border.

Hudson Institute, in partnership with MLI, is proud to host the launch of CNAPS. The event will highlight two urgent matters facing policymakers on both sides of the border: the lessons from Canada’s extensive experience with institutional capture by the Chinese Communist Party, and the potential for a continental energy policy that would keep prices low, ensure energy security for the liberal-democratic world, and reduce the flow of money to some of the world’s nastiest regimes.

 

The launch is scheduled for November 14, 2023. 

MLI is based in Ottawa, Canada and is affiliated with the libertarian Atlas Network.  MLI was founded in 2010.

Monday, October 30, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#486)

  • Former AEI president Arthur Brooks now a self-help guru writing books with Oprah.
  • Stony Brook University received a donation of $500 million, one of the largest gifts to a university in American history.
  • Think tank experts call for increased diplomatic engagement with Iran.
  • Major new Politico piece on Project 2025 at the Heritage Foundation. 
  • Former Undersecretary of Defense Colin Kahl is joining the Brookings Institution's Strobe Talbott Center for Security, Strategy and Technology as their Sydney Stein, Jr. scholar in residence.
  • The annual conference of the European House Ambrosetti, an Italian think tank, was held at the Villa d'Este on the shore of Lake Como.  Sens. John Thune, Lindsey Graham and Bob Menendez attended.
  • Heritage Foundation backs continuing resolution (CR) deal in Congress. 
  • Vivek Ramaswamy gives speech at Trump-aligned American First Policy Institute; Ron DeSantis gives speech at Heritage Foundation.
  • Logan Wright: Director of China markets research at Rhodium Group and senior associate of the Trustee Chair in Chinese Business and Economics at CSIS.
  • Growing wave of volunteers expose faulty or fraudulent research papers.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Billionare-Backed Network of Think Tankers Pushing AI Agenda

Here is more from Politico:

An organization backed by Silicon Valley billionaires and tied to leading artificial intelligence firms is funding the salaries of more than a dozen AI fellows in key congressional offices, across federal agencies and at influential think tanks.

The fellows funded by Open Philanthropy, which is financed primarily by billionaire Facebook co-founder and Asana CEO Dustin Moskovitz and his wife Cari Tuna, are already involved in negotiations that will shape Capitol Hill’s accelerating plans to regulate AI. And they’re closely tied to a powerful influence network that’s pushing Washington to focus on the technology’s long-term risks — a focus critics fear will divert Congress from more immediate rules that would tie the hands of tech firms.

Acting through the little-known Horizon Institute for Public Service, a nonprofit that Open Philanthropy effectively created in 2022, the group is funding the salaries of tech fellows in key Senate offices, according to documents and interviews.

Current and former Horizon AI fellows with salaries funded by Open Philanthropy are now working at the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department, as well as in the House Science Committee and Senate Commerce Committee, two crucial bodies in the development of AI rules. They also populate key think tanks shaping AI policy, including the RAND Corporation and Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology, according to the Horizon web site. In 2022, Open Philanthropy set aside nearly $3 million to pay for what ultimately became the initial cohort of Horizon fellows.

Horizon is one piece of a sprawling web of AI influence that Open Philanthropy has built across Washington’s power centers. The organization — which is closely aligned with “effective altruism,” a movement made famous by disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried that emphasizes a data-driven approach to philanthropy — has also spent tens of millions of dollars on direct contributions to AI and biosecurity researchers at RAND, Georgetown’s CSET, the Center for a New American Security and other influential think tanks guiding Washington on AI.

 

Politico notes that RAND received a $5.5 million grant from Open Philanthropy in April to research “potential risks from advanced AI,” and another $10 million in May to study biosecurity.

It adds that both grants can be spent at the discretion of RAND CEO Jason Matheny, "a luminary in the effective altruist community who in September became one of five members on Anthropic's new Long-Term Benefit Trust."  Matheny, the founding director of CSET, is a former Biden Administration official.  CSET, notes Politico, is funded almost entirely by Open Philanthropy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Vietnam Tried to Hack Think Tank Experts

Here is more from the Washington Post:

Vietnamese government agents tried to plant spyware on the phones of members of Congress, American policy experts and U.S. journalists this year in a brazen campaign that underscores the rapid proliferation of state-of-the-art hacking tools, according to forensic examination of links posted to Twitter and documents uncovered by a consortium of news outlets that includes The Washington Post.

Targeted were two of the most influential foreign policy voices on Capitol Hill: Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee and chair of its subcommittee on the Middle East. Also targeted were Asia experts at Washington think tanks and journalists from CNN, including Jim Sciutto, the outlet’s chief national security analyst, and two Asia-based reporters.

 

The Washington Post notes that an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund was targeted by Vietnam, along with the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Iran's Influence Operation Attracted Think Tankers

Here is more from Semafor:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues — particularly its nuclear program — by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative.

The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails reported for the first time by Semafor and Iran International. The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative. At least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

According to the emails, Iran’s Foreign Ministry, through its in-house think tank — the Institute for Political and International Studies — reached out to ten “core” members for the project, through which it planned to liaise over the next 18 months to aggressively promote the merits of a nuclear deal between Tehran and Washington, which was finalized in July 2015.

 

Semafor noted the names of several people who were part of the IEI, including Ariane Tabatabai, who formerly worked at the RAND Corp., as well as Dina Esfandiary, and Ali Vaez of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Think Tank Used to Recruit Russian Spies?

A Russian woman named Natalia Burlinova held numerous meetings with American students and academics under the auspices of her think tank that were part of a years-long effort to influence the opinions of future leaders in the US on behalf of the Russian government, according to a US criminal complaint.

Here is more from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty:

In addition to the U.S. meetings, Burlinova and her organization, called Creative Diplomacy, or PICREADI, hosted dozens of young journalists, public policy specialists, and newly minted graduate students at annual events in Russia over the course of four years -- a program that "was funded in part by the FSB, a fact never disclosed to the public," according to the FBI. The organization's website prominently features an interview with a Russian couple who were kicked out of the United States in 2010 after the FBI identified them and eight others as "sleeper agents" for Russian intelligence.

"Burlinova provided extensive information to the FSB about the U.S. citizen participants in the Meeting Russia programs, including biographical information, their interests, and their political opinions," the FBI alleged. "The FSB subsequently monitored the career developments of these U.S. citizen participants with an aim that some would become influential public figures."

 

PICREADI was founded in 2010, and its website, which is still being updated, can be found here.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#485)

  • Think tanks draft plans for GOP president (and here).
  • British think tank Institute for Strategic Dialogue found 114 Wagner-linked accounts across Facebook and Instagram glorifying the group or posting recruitment information to fill its ranks.
  • Nathaniel Fick, former CEO of think tank CNAS, selected as State's inaugural cyber ambassador.
  • The Pirate Bay was founded in 2003 by Swedish think tank Piratbyran.
  • Lee Zeldin is now chair of America First Policy Institute's Pathway to 2025 initiative.
  • Audrey Kurth Cronin to lead Carnegie Mellon Institute for Security and Technology.
  • Dmitri Alperovitch, "a cybersecurity expert who co-founded Silverado Policy Accelerator think tank and has advised governments on satellite internet."
  • Fidelity Investments, best know for managing mutual funds, also runs a think tank that focuses on futuristic ideas (Fidelity's Center for Applied Technology, or FCAT).
  • A group of prominent media, tech, and research executives have raised $3 million to launch an independent policy research center (Center for News, Technology & Innovation) focusing on addressing global internet issues.  Funding is coming from Craig Newmark Philanthropies, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Lenfest Institute, and private companies.
  • Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD): "A think tank which focuses on disinformation."

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Heritage President to Also Lead Sister Lobbying Arm

Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts said he will also become president of the think tank's sister lobbying arm, Heritage Action for America.

This will be the first time that the head of the Heritage Foundation has also headed Heritage Action.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

How a North Korean Cyber Group Impersonated a DC Think Tanker

Here is more from CNBC: 

Six years ago, a well-respected researcher was working late into the night when she stepped away from her computer to brush her teeth. By the time she came back, her computer had been hacked.

Jenny Town is a leading expert on North Korea at the [Stimson Center] and the director of Stimson’s 38 North Program. Her work is built on on open-source intelligence, Town said on Monday. She uses publicly available data points to paint a picture of North Korean dynamics.

“I don’t have any clearance. I don’t have any access to classified information,” Town said at the conference.

But the hackers, a unit of North Korea’s intelligence services codenamed APT43, or KimSuky, were not only after classified information.

The hackers used a popular remote-desktop tool TeamViewer to access her machine and ran scripts to comb through her computer. Then her webcam light turned on, presumably to check if she had returned to her computer. “Then it went off real quickly, and then they closed everything down,” Town told attendees at the mWISE conference, run by Google-owned cybersecurity company Mandiant.

Town and Mandiant now presume the North Koreans had been able to exfiltrate information about Town’s colleagues, her field of study, and her contact list. They used that information to create a digital doppelganger of Town: A North Korean sock puppet that they could use to gather intelligence from thousands of miles away.

 

Here is more about Jenny Town's story from a previous report.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Former Austrian FinMin Who Danced With Putin Moved to Russia to Open Think Tank

Here is more from Associated Press:

A former Austrian foreign minister who had invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to her wedding and danced a waltz with him at the 2018 reception said she has moved to St. Petersburg to set up a think tank there.

Karin Kneissl, 58, announced on messaging app Telegram on Wednesday that her ponies, which she has been keeping in Syria, were taken to Russia on a Russian military plane.

Kneissl was nominated as a non-party member by the right-wing Freedom Party to serve as foreign minister, a position which she held from 2017 to 2019.

At the Eastern Economic Forum in the far eastern Russian city of Vladivostok earlier this week, Kneissl told Russian state news agency Tass that she had set up the Gorki center — a think tank associated with the state university in St. Petersburg.

Because the think tank requires a lot of her time, she decided to move to Russia, she said.

 

The "Gorki" in Gorki Centre is reportedly short for "Geopolitical Observatory for Russia's Key Issues."